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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 26 February 2002

26 February 2002

26 February 2002 A House of Lords' committee is reported to have concluded that it supports British parliamentary approval for the creation of cloned humans who may be experimented on but are denied the chance to be born. SPUC has condemned the conclusions as "whitewash". Anthony Ozimic of SPUC said: "This report will have no credibility, as the committee's membership was stacked with supporters of human cloning, many with close links to bodies with a vested interest in embryo research. Only two out of 11 members had voted against the government's cloning regulations in January last year. The committee's chairman, the Bishop of Oxford, has long been an advocate of human cloning. His controversial religious views on the embryo have been used as a veneer to cloak the committee's bias in favour of destructive embryo research. Only pro-cloning scientists were explicitly invited by the committee to give evidence and even the committee's scientific advisor, Professor Christopher Higgins, is also an advocate of human cloning. Furthermore, it seems like the purpose of this committee has been to provide justification for a law which has already been passed." [SPUC, 26 February ] The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has unprecedentedly approved a request for in vitro fertilisation treatment during which embryos will be discarded or frozen if, once born, they cannot provide transplant-tissue for the parents' son. Zain Hashmi, aged two, of Leeds has thalassaemia, a potentially fatal blood-disease, and material would be taken from his new sibling's umbilical cord. [Telegraph, 23 February ] Pro-life groups criticised the HFEA's decision while churches' responses were mixed. SPUC's Paul Tully said: "We condemn the HFEA's sanctioning of the destruction of any number of embryos simply because they do not happen to be a good tissue-match for the young boy. The selection of an embryo in this way brings us to the brink of genetic manipulation of our progeny." Professor Jack Scarisbrick of Life said: "One understands the plight of the parents, but we have to hold on to our principles in these difficult circumstances." The Catholic diocese of Leeds said that: "the artificial nature of the conception would cause difficulty for Roman Catholic theologians since it cannot be accommodated within the Church's teaching on the transmission of human life." The Church of England's board for social responsibility pointed out that the baby would be used as a means to an end but added: "Although this could not be said to be a good situation of itself, in this particular case the end is to save a life, and for this one may make many sacrifices." Anglican Bishop Nazir-Ali of Rochester, chairman of the HFEA's ethics committee, said that harm was being minimised and good maximised. [Telegraph and SPUC , 23 February] Six British couples are reported to have asked for the same sort of procedure as the Hashmis and others are said to have gone to America for it. The HFEA denies that it has opened the floodgates for multiple applications but will consider each case individually. [Times, 25 February ] Still-undecided voters will determine whether Ireland's constitution is amended to define abortion as happening after implantation, according to an opinion poll. The survey in Ireland on Sunday suggested that, while 29% supported the amendment and 27% opposed it, 30% were still deciding how to vote in tomorrow-week's referendum. [Times, 25 February ] An operation on a baby of 23 weeks' gestation seems to have been successful in preventing a fatal heart-defect. Around the middle of last year Massachusetts cardiologists watched on ultrasound as they used a minute balloon attached to a wire to widen a 2.5 mm diameter valve. [BBC, 26 February ] Bad maternity care is causing 200 infant deaths every year according to a study funded by the British government. The report, due out in June, claims that one mother in five gets ineffective care. Leeds university researchers looked at 2,000 cases in 20 hospitals, where fewer than two-thirds of doctors followed current obstetric guidelines. [Observer, 24 February ] The Australian federal cabinet has rejected a parliamentary committee's recommendation that embryos created through in vitro fertilisation should be used for research, though it is unclear how such experimentation might be banned. Opposition to embryo-research has been led by Mr Kevin Andrews, the minister for aging, who was also instrumental in overturning a pro-euthanasia law in the country's Northern Territory. [Zenit, 25 February ] The Belgian Free University intends to teach medical students to perform euthanasia, which is expected to be approved by the country's lower house of parliament this year. [LifeSite, 25 February ] The Catholic diocese of Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, has warned that it will not perform burial-services for those presently considering euthanasia, which is already legal in that country. [LifeSite, 25 February ] Aspirin could protect unborn children from a virus which can cause developmental anomalies, according to a study to be published tomorrow in the proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences. Researchers in New Jersey suggest that the painkiller could fight human cytomegalovirus. [Telegraph, 26 February ] Fish or fish-oil supplements could prevent premature births, according to a Danish study of 8,000 women published in the British Medical Journal. [Guardian, 22 February ] Mothers' obesity before pregnancy can cause developmental problems in unborn children and can give expectant women diabetes and high blood pressure. Children of obese mothers run a higher risk of being obese themselves, as well as a greater likelihood of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The warnings come from Dr Richard Deckelbaum, professor of nutrition at Columbia university, New York. [BBC, 25 February ] Fibroids in the womb could be caused by genetic defects in women, say British and Finnish researchers in a report in Nature Genetics. Fibroids can cause bleeding and/or miscarriage, and mutations in the fumarate hydratase gene appear to cause them. [BBC, 25 February ]

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